Hanna and Her Moon Gate

The Moon Gate leaving Ian Moody’s Aquamaison  |  photo by Hanna Bui  |  post by Claudia Kelly

Hanna Bui has the newest and most interesting home on Gate 6 ½. It is uniquely recognized by the beautiful entryway, which features a 19–foot diameter circular opening in the front wall. This allows one to look out to the boat’s rear wall, which hosts a similar circle of windows and an exterior glass door overlooking Mt. Tam and the bay. The inside is wide open, with few walls and a very Zen-like atmosphere. A gorgeous, wide, ash–wood staircase, which doubles as gallery seating for a party, descends down to the living area. This great room is an expansive open space, highlighted by a ceiling over 20 feet tall. Only one–third of the first floor is utilized for the kitchen, baths and the master suite; the remainder is the great room, consisting of the entryway, staircase, and dining and living rooms.

Moving from Silicon Valley, Hanna was looking for waterfront property and found Gate 6 ½. After living for four years in a much narrower house (14 feet wide), Hanna yearned for a broader view. She jumped at the opportunity to buy a home with a wider berth and found this floating home design on award–winning architect Craig Steely’s website.

Through the magic of good people working on a fabulous design and fortuitous choice, having commissioned the last hull made in Sausalito, she got her Moon Gate home. Upon entering, besides admiring the big Western sky view overlooking the seaplanes, you have the feeling of being really close to the water. In fact, this boat was built for that feeling. Simple serenity on the water, with solar panels on the roof backed up by a Tesla battery, compliment her 1,400 square–foot floating home.

Hanna told me that she didn’t want a big boat; she just wanted a big view, which is what she got. We neighbors gathered for the arrival of this beauty for several nights before it actually showed up and cheered when it finally got towed into its permanent berth—it took longer as her crew had to launch the boat without Ian Moody (who passed away suddenly in May). Since moving to the Sausalito waterfront, besides already being an avid tennis player, she has taken to water sports previously unknown to her: she surfs, kayaks, paddle boards and even bravely water-skies in our frigid bay. This is all done after hours from her day job being a corporate lawyer, which she loves.

Hanna’s grit and her very strong personal character have been severely tested by this creative design construction project. But her background groomed her well for adversity; she and her family escaped from communist Vietnam on a rickety fishing boat after four years of bribing and trying. Crammed in a 42’ x 21’ boat with 73 people, drinking water from an uncleaned oil drum, with little food and fearing pirates with machetes as a young child, she survived. After eight months in a refugee camp in Thailand, that 13-year-old learned the survival skills of cleaning fish and cooking for her parents, who took to their beds after their family trauma. She said international aid agencies allotted $5 a day to each person (which was a very comfortable amount for a person to live on in Thailand in the early 80’s), but after the government and NGO people minding the refugees compensated themselves, her family’s share had trickled down to a rotten fish, maybe.

I commented that she probably just wanted a happy life now, but she set me straight: a happy life is not a value that Asian immigrants embrace; achievements are. Learning spoken English through watching the Brady Bunch on television, and having missed a school year as a refugee, she tested in and graduated from the famous Lowell High in San Francisco (and some years later, graduated from Hastings College of Law, also in the city). While acquiring their new language and marketable skills, her father initially drove a taxi and her mother worked at Glide Memorial. Walking home from school with other kids, she pointed to her big home, not stopping to mention that her family was actually living in the basement next to the cars in this big house.

Obviously, this rough early life toughened her in the right way for her future years. Recently aboard her Moon Gate, she has encountered challenges such as too much unbalanced weight, probably from a new inside garden, more hull leaks and so on—welcome to the floating home world! She loves her new waterside life and is still smiling despite continuing construction challenges. Today I spy her wetsuit drying over a railing, so her day started early in the bay.